Remembering My First Computer

Atari 600XLPC Pro Magazine is celebrating it’s 150th issue this month. If you work in, or have any responsibility for I.T, and don’t read “PC Pro” – why not? It’s an invaluable source of information for newbie and experienced user alike.As part of the 150th Celebrations, PC Pro has asked it’s contributors to reminise about their first PC. Anecdotes about Sinclair ZX80’s, earlier Apple Mac’s and even earlier beasts that barely pass for the modern equivalent of “computer” were presented. Which got me thinking to my first computer experiences.My first computer was the Atari 600XL (pictured right).

Boasting a whopping 16KB (that’s KB, not MB) of memory, a Cartridge Slot for ROM based games, and a heavy integrated keyboard – when my 2nd hand 600XL appeared on Christmas day that year, the 9 year old mini-me was very excited!

Although no manuals were supplied, an Atari Cassette Deck was, and so through trial and error (and using cheap C60 “Data” Cassette’s purchased from Tandy’s to save information onto, it was mostly error…) I slowly picked up how to write in BASIC. I like to think that this first experience of “it’s only a computer, try stuff and see what works” set me up for later life as a reckless IT Consultant…

Plus of course there were the games. Although I was given access to the back catalogue of Atari classics (Joust – pictured left, Centipede and Star Raiders, amongst others) – it wasn’t long before I was introduced to the equivalents of PC Pro magazine for the day… “Atari User” and it’s less glossy but longer lasting rival “Page 6” Magazine. Within their pages I found out about games of the day like Gauntlet, games that required more than my puny 600XL’s 16k memory…

And so I learnt my first lesson about what would become a lifetimes computing necessity, namely “upgrading”.

I moved from a 600XL to a 2nd hand Atari 800XL, boasting a huge 64KB of memory – enough to run Gauntlet. Then came a 5.25″ Disk Drive, consigning the Cassette Deck to history. Then I lusted after 128KB memory, so a move to the Atari 130XE was required. Before long, the 16-bit Atari STFM was luring me away, and once I was onto the 16-bit platform, my first non-Atari Compuer, the Amiga A500, was purchased.

Being introduced to the Amiga’s grown-up UNIX like OS was the final chapter in my “Home Computer” learnings – I soon explored further and discovered something called the “IBM Compatible PC” (an 8086 Processor in this case) and the world of Networking using long lengths of BNC Cable became the new passion.

But I’ll never forget my humble beginnings on the Atari. In fact, how can I forget – as I sit typing this blog entry, I can see an Atari 65XE and an original Atari 400 staring at me from the shelves! That’s right, I now collect “retro” computers – so the GG has to put up with sharing our home with overflowing shelves full of ZX Spectrums, Commodore 64’s, VIC 20’s and all the other home computers I could never afford to play with when I was a youngster. 🙂

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